Wednesday, January 17, 2007

In the Cold

Joseph and I move through the revolving door together, spilling out into the bitter cold.

We walk forward a few paces, and then stop-- resting our elbows on the building's stone railing.

Below and in front of us is an expanse of frozen, brown grass and leafless trees. Just beyond that, a busy downtown street.

Ryan and Evan are still inside.

"You cold, Bud?"

"Nah, I'm fine. But I think Dad's gonna be a while-- Evan didn't look like she wanted to leave."

The wind picks up. I put an arm around him-- for a second, wondering if there'll come a time soon when he'll no longer let me.

After a couple of minutes, I'm ready to go back inside -- my gloved fingertips are just starting to go numb -- but then Joseph turns his face up toward mine.

"Mom, what age do you want to be when you die?"

"Huh-- well, um . . . I think maybe . . . 102."

"Really?" Joseph says, sounding surprised-- and a little pleased.

"How about you, Bud?"

"Probably like 91, 'cause I'd be afraid to get so old that I'd have lots of problems."

I hold onto him a little tighter.

For a while, we don't say anything-- just look out toward the many small figures rushing along a crowded sidewalk-- hands stuffed in their pockets; chins tucked down into their coats.

"Dying is kind of scary, you know?" Joseph says suddenly, without looking at me.

"I mean, I think it's like you go to sleep one night -- thinkin' you're gonna get up the next morning -- and then you just don't wake up."

For a moment, I just stare at him.

And then a sudden, unbearable chill takes hold.

I rub my upper arms, my shoulders-- and once again, pull him close.

"Honey, have you been thinking about this very much?"

"Naah," he says, shaking his head. "Just now... it's weird though, you know? That you're here, and then you're not."

"I know... you wanna talk about it?"

"Mom," he says, now looking me full in the face, "do you think there's a Hell?"

"No, I don't."

"How about Heaven?"

"Well, most religions talk about Heaven; they just have different names for it. Yes, I think there's something else-- some other level we get to. I'm just not sure we can really know it's nature, but yeah, I believe we do go somewhere else. And you know, there are times when I can actually feel my Mom is with me... so yes, I do believe there's something else.

"But hey, Bud-- you've got a long life ahead, and boatloads of things to do here."

"Yeah, I know," he says, giving me a smile that makes me wonder what things he already has in mind.

"Hey, Mom-- let's go back inside and get warm."

We move quickly across the stone terrace, enter the revolving door-- and gratefully, leave the cold wind behind.


Scott K. Johnson said...

Joseph seems mature beyond his years.

I think it speaks highly of your relationship with him that you two can talk about stuff like that.

In Search Of Balance said...

What good answers to hard questions. Joseph is fortunate to have a mom like you, and vice versa!

Take your time on the inscription... no expiration date :)

Chrissie in Belgium said...

It is very scary when as a child you first realize that our lives do end. I remember it still today. I was 10. And it is hard as a parent to know exactly what to say.... It is not a nice thought, ever. What is wonderful is that he came to you and talked. Communication is the key.

maureen said...

So sad that these kids need to grow up so fast...It so pays to be open and honest. My 11 yr old T1 son (and his 18 yr old brother) are "old souls" and I like it. Think that your son is too!

Rachel said...

I would have loved to have had a conversation like that with my parents (or even my older siblings) when I was around that age. Maybe I thought all that in my head anyways, but never really talked things through with anyone until college.

Like Chrissie said, communication is the key and it makes a world of difference.

Shannon said...

I've had many conversations with Brendon about death. I believe it stemmed from when my mother-in-law was living with us. He knew she was very sick from emphysema.

Since then he hasn't asked about death, but I've finally come up with a way to articulate what happens after we die since heaven and hell wasn't the explanation I wanted to give.

Open dialogue is always good no matter what the subject and it's obvious Joseph feels comfortable talking to you because you provide that for him.

ScW said...

I've always felt that death was the hardest thing to deal with about life. Ironic, isn't it?

But the fact that we can contemplate the concepts of heaven and hell and our finite existence and at the same time dream of an eternal existence speaks as a witness that there is a God. The other thing of course that I believe nags at us all is the hellish nature of the world we live in. The pain, the diabetes, the war, the hate, death itself, etc... show us the dark and unfair things in this life. And when we see a pretty sunset or look at some beautiful creation or feel the love of another (especially at a time when we know we don't really deserve it). Those sweet things seem to indicate something else entirely from the negative ones. They suggest the idea of a place where everything is at it should be.

I pity the parent who feels he or she has to tell a child that there is nothing beyond this life -- that the other side of death is nothing. If there is nothing else, then there is no hope. I know I don't want to live that way and I don't because I do have hope.

Kelsey said...

What a sophisticated kid! Wow, I'm not sure I was thinking along those lines at that age... but then again I didn't have diabetes yet. It's amazing that at such a young age Joseph has a healthy view of diabetes complications.

You provided excellent answers!

Nicole P said...

Wow. This post gave me chills, Sandra. An awareness of one's mortality at Joseph's age is maybe not that common. I know it must be difficult for you to know he's thinking about death/dying, but, it seems you've done a really wonderful job of making him feel comfortable enough to talk about it with you - and your answers gave him some level of comfort, I'm sure.

Bernard said...


Treasure these conversations and thank you for sharing it with us.

I hope that Joseph will be talking with you like this for a long time.

Carey said...

Tough questions indeed - handled extremely well. Seems you two have a really special relationship. Great post.

ECR said...

That's a vivid winter scene. I can't say I love the season for the way it brings the topic of death to the forefront, but there is warmth in the way you and your son share it.

Oh, The Joys said...

It's more than the cold that makes you squeeze that one tightly.